Information Technology > I understand, but...

I understand, but...

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: May 15, 2010

One of my former bosses, an engineer like myself, told me about a personality test he took. The results were puzzling to the test administrator. She told him not to be too upset about his score on sympathy. It was not unusual for an engineer to score a zero on that. The puzzling part for her was they he got a maximum score on empathy. The engineer smiled and said "Oh that makes perfect sense to me. In fact I just explained this to my wife the other day. What I said was-I understand your problem, but I just don't care."

Which is how I feel about the current state of the tech support industry. I understand it is a tough world out there. The state of the universe is this "Lets create a problem for people, then get them to pay us to remove the problem!" This is the evolutionary result of Madison Avenue's years of getting us to buy stuff we don't need. After a while, we evolved to where we figured out we didn't need stuff we didn't need. Took a while, but we got there. So now the game is like this, ok, we'll charge a fee for something you used to get for free, then we'll offer to give that back to you if you sign up for this offer. Airlines of course are playing this game in two ways.

First is the luggage fee. I just got an offer to waive my luggage fee if i sign up for a credit card. They get 2.9% on all transactions when I use the card, or something like that. So here is a chance for them to get money for nothing. In return I get to back in time to when bags were included in the airfare. Yawn. Likewise another airline that is renowned for having the least legroom of any airline offers to sell you back the legroom you had 20 years ago. Hrmm. ANd finally there is a rental car agency at one particular airport that always wins the contract for a rental by offering a low buy in price, then you show up, wait an hour for your car, then they "upgrade" you to a gas guzzler that they can't rent to anyone else, then they don't run a shuttle so you end up paying for a taxi since it is an off terminal rental agency. I do my best to avoid all these folks when doing personal travel, but they have something of a captive audience for business travel and so you deal with the state of the industry. But you don't sing their praises. I'm not even mentioning names here to give them free advertising. They get nothing.

And that is the same with the tech support guys. I get their problem. Their CEO's all are accustomed to living the good life, riding the tech bubble into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. To do that, they have to keep selling you broken products and soon to be obsolete products.

I have a DSL modem at home that runs fine. It has run fine for 10 years. That is an anathema to the industry. They can't sell me another one! But I have been buying wireless routers over the years to create a home network. So here is the problem. The connection software for my modem get corrupted. I have to go back to my ISP to fix the connection. When I go through that process, the router no longer works. So I have to call tech support for the router. Used to be they would support the product even after warranty. Because they did that, I bought 4 or 5 of thier routers for friends and family over the years. Anytime anyone needed a router, I pointed them to that company.

But now we are in the post housing bubble down economy and these tech CEO are trying to figure out how to keep the corporate jets airborne and stocked with sexy flight attendants. They can't be doing freebies for the people that they need giving them money to maintain thier welfare. So now when I call tech support I get the guy in India who is very friendly, but who tells me sorry, can't help for free. But they can do an email fix for free. OK, fine. I try the email fix.

I wait 48 hours with no network and get a fix that of course doesn't fix the problem. But for a one time fee...

Well, thanks but no thanks. I'm now looking at buying a modem with a router included. I go to the store that my ISP runs and see that they have joined the bandwagon. All is need is a box. Something I could pick up off a shelf and install myself, or could have years ago. But now, borrowing a customer service policy from a business partner who thinks the best thing to do is have you camp in their store, they tell me there is a 35 minute to see a guy who can walk into the back of the store and grab me a box...

I go home and come back a few days later when their ability to inconvenience me is reduced. I get the box after only a 5 minute wait.

Now both of these firms are peppering me with emails where they want feedback about my customer service experience. So here it is. I'll never buy from that router company again, ever. And I'll only walk into to the ISP's storefront after I have exhausted every other possible solution.

Good luck funding your CEO's retirement. I understand and really I'd like to help, but...

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